In 2011 Minecraft was released to the world. Minecraft is a game in which players must gather resources in a three dimensional, virtual world, in order to build shelters, farm crops and, ultimately, survive. As more and more people played the game, educators recognized the enormous educational potential of it. One particular group formed a company called Teacher Gaming and added some extra features to the game to create MinecraftEdu, a version designed specifically for teachers to use with students in their classrooms.
Throughout this year at MES Cairo, we have been investigating the possibilities offered by this game. At our most recent WIRED meeting, sessions during which we explore various aspects of “technology in the classroom” we dedicated our time to exploring MinecraftEdu. At the start of the day, most members of the group had only witnessed Minecraft over the shoulders of their children, nieces and nephews. By the end of the day, excitement was intense as ideas for learning opportunities were being shared with great enthusiasm.
The journey began in a Tutorial World, designed to familiarize the group with the in-game controls. Once a certain level of competence in moving around, gathering resources and building structures, we moved on to look at some of the subject-specific worlds already being used at MES Cairo.
The group visited an Ancient Greek Theatre that has been used for an American Section Theatre class to experience first-hand what it would have felt like to witness or perform in one of these incredible structures. Just across the valley we had a look at the same students’ own construction of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. Feedback from one student was shared about his experience of building this iconic theatre.
“Building The Globe ourselves means that we know every corner of it really well.”
The group then visited another world and found themselves in a small French village. They tried archery and fishing. As the sun set in this virtual space, the visitors to Dieulefit were treated to a fireworks display, demonstrating the power of Minecraft’s “electronic” system, known in the game as Redstone.
The WIRED teachers were finally let loose on their own construction projects, creating Hobbit houses, cottages and temples. At this point the teachers began experimenting and designing their own lessons, realizing as they did that Minecraft-based lessons genuinely meet every requirement of the Schlechty Centre’s “10 Design Qualities” that create the most engaging and rewarding learning experiences for students.
As the project continues to grow more and more teachers are seeing the possibilities. The only limit to what can be achieved with MinecraftEdu is the teacher’s imagination. There are many different approaches to how the game can be used. At the minute, Year 2 classes are exploring the story of Hansel and Gretel by building their very own Gingerbread Houses in the woods, while Grade 7 Social Studies classes are rebuilding the great ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia, India and Egypt, from scratch, using only the natural resources around them. There are more worlds to explore and build and an amazing amount of profound learning to be done along the way.